Pelosi Hints Infrastructure Delay As Congress Begins Huge Week

US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks alongside members of the House Democratic Women’s Caucus and other Democratic members of Congress, as they hold a press conference promoting the Build Back Better agenda on the steps of the US Capitol in Washington, DC, September 24, 2021. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP)

 

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has expressed confidence that a massive infrastructure bill will pass this week but acknowledged it might not get a Monday vote as planned, with fellow Democrats warning critical work remains to meet the party’s deadlines.

Democrats have been scrambling to hammer out a landmark plan to upgrade the nation’s roads and bridges, but are also under immense pressure to finalize a $3.5 trillion public investment package and fund the government to avert a looming shutdown — all by September 30.

The week is among the most critical of President Joe Biden’s tenure, with opposition Republicans digging in against his Build Back Better program that would invest in climate change policy, lower childcare and education costs for working families, and create millions of jobs.

But Pelosi, despite her confidence that the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that has already cleared the Senate with bipartisan support will pass the House of Representatives “this week,” hinted at potential quicksand ahead.

“I’m never bringing a bill to the floor that doesn’t have the votes,” the top Democrat in Congress told ABC Sunday talk show “This Week,” asked about whether she will bring the infrastructure bill to the floor Monday as previously agreed.

“It may be tomorrow — if we have the votes,” she said.

“You cannot choose the date,” she added. “You have to go when you have the votes, in a reasonable time. And we will.”

Pelosi told her Democratic colleagues in a letter Saturday that they “must” pass both of Biden’s huge spending bills, along with legislation that keeps the federal government operating into the next fiscal year beginning October 1.

“The next few days will be a time of intensity,” she wrote.

Irresponsible beyond words’

Pelosi is running into not only a buzzsaw of opposition from Republicans; Democratic progressives and moderates have made clear they need to see quickly exactly what goes in the $3.5 trillion bill.

“The votes aren’t there, so I don’t think she’s going to bring it” to the floor Monday, congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, who chairs the House progressives, told CNN’s “State of the Union,” regarding the infrastructure bill.

House progressives have repeatedly warned that they won’t green-light infrastructure without Build Back Better.

In order to get the historic spending bill to Biden’s desk, Democrats are using a process called “reconciliation”, which allows certain budget-related legislation to pass the Senate with a simple majority rather than 60 votes.

But moderate Senate Democrats Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have expressed deep reservations about the huge price tag.

With the Senate evenly split 50-50, their votes would be critical to passing the bill — something that Pelosi, herself a master vote-counter, is keenly aware of.

While all Democrats “overwhelmingly” support Biden’s grand vision, it was “self-evident” that the final price tag for Build Back Better will be lowered, Pelosi said.

She also stressed the importance of funding the government to avoid a looming shutdown, and suspending the debt ceiling to allow federal agencies to make loan repayments.

The House passed a bill Tuesday that would accomplish both goals.

But Senate Republicans have balked overextending the Treasury Department’s borrowing authority this time around, a position Pelosi described as “irresponsible beyond words.”

Gun Control: US Democrats Occupy Congress

Gun Control, US CongressA mild drama has taken place at the U.S. Senate where democrats staged a sit-in on the floor of the lower house to demand tighter gun control.

This comes after a man claiming allegiance to the Islamic State group, Omar Mateen, killed 49 people at the pulse nightclub in Orlando, in the deadliest shooting in modern US history.

Although the 16-hour sit-in at the US House of Representatives failed to force a vote on tougher laws, members of the centre-left Democratic Party said they will keep fighting for gun control

Unlike the Senate, there is no formal mechanism for lawmakers in the House to hold the floor indefinitely.

One congressman, John Lewis, told his colleagues to never give up.

“How many more mothers, how many more fathers need to shed tears of grief before we do something? We were elected to lead, Mr Speaker,” Lewis said during the sit-in.

However, Republican speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, dismissed the protest as a publicity stunt.

“This bill was already defeated in the United States Senate,” the Speaker of the House said, justifying Republican opposition to the bill by adding: “We are not going to take away a citizen’s constitutional rights to due process.”

Ryan further denied that the issue was gun control, but rather terrorism.

“Let’s find out what we need to do to prevent future terrorist attacks. And if a person is on a terror watch list and they go try to buy a gun, we have procedures in place to deal with that,” he told CNN.

Senators are pushing for a compromise, with top Democratic senator Harry Reid, supporting a Republican proposal that would stop gun sales to a limited number of people on some terrorism watch lists.